From ecstasy to agony for Panathinaikos against Bilbao

From ecstasy to agony for Panathinaikos against Bilbao


Panathinaikos 2 - 3 Athletic Bilbao
Lod 29'
Cabezas 55'

Aduriz 68', (P) 74'
da Marcos 71'

Three goals in six second-half minutes from Athletic Bilbao have virtually ended Panathinaikos’ European dreams this season as the Spanish club came from behind to claim a stunning 3-2 victory in Athens in the first leg of their Europa League playoff tie.

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It seemed as though an impressive Panathinaikos were heading for a solid 2-0 home win at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium after goals from Robin Lod and Bryan Cabezas put the Greens firmly in command.

But a spectacular collapse which saw the home side leak three goals between the 68th and 74th minutes left Marinos Ouzounidis’ team with a devastating defeat which makes their task to reach the group stage a mountainous one.

Those strikes came from Aritz Aduriz, who bagged a brace, and Oscar de Marcos as the Spanish club produced an astonishing comeback to stun the home side, who for so long had dominated the match.

Bilbao began the match as firm favourites, but far from being overawed by their more illustrious La Liga opponents from Spain’s Basque country, Panathinaikos looked confident and composed in front of their noisy and passionate support at a sold-out ‘Leoforos’.

While clear cut scoring chances were at a premium, Panathinaikos continuously got behind the visitors defence, with the pace of Cabezas and the direct running of Guillermo Molins putting the visitors on the backfoot.

After a few half chances, Lod opened the scoring in the 29th minute with a great piece of skill. The Finland international collected Molins’ deft flick-on from Cabezas’ cross and skipped past Athletic defender Xabier Etxeita before slotting a low finish into the corner past Iago Herrerin’s dive.

Cabezas made it 2-0 in emphatic fashion in the 55th minute, smashing the ball into the top corner after good work from Lod and Luciano.

The home side just needed to show some concentration in the final third of the match but it was not to be. The first lapse came in the 68th minute when a great cross from Bilbao captain Iker Muniain was headed home at the far post by Aduriz.

And just two minutes later Panathinaikos were undone again in almost identical fashion. This time Bilbao’s left-back Mikel Balenziaga whipped over a superb cross which de Marcos slammed home from close range.

The final nail in the Greens’ coffin was delivered by Aduriz, who slotted home coolly from the penalty spot after Rodrigo Moledo was penalized for a foul on Inaki Williams.
Zeca and substitute Christos Donis both missed good chances to level the scores which would have provided some consolation for PAO, but instead they travel to Spain next Thursday on August 24 with what seems like an impossible mission.



by Graham Wood
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